WELLNESS BREAKS INTO THE MAINSTREAM

Byline: Pete Born / With contributions from James Fallon, London

NEW YORK — As marketing buzzwords go, “wellness” has become ubiquitous.
It is heard about as often as New Yorkers complaining of being “stressed out.” And as a result, the concept has mushroomed beyond its marketing niche into the mainstream and can be viewed as part of the ever-popular preoccupation with self.
“Health and wellness are the new status symbols,” said Daria Myers, senior vice president of global marketing at Aveda, a subsidiary of Estee Lauder Cos. “It’s now chic to be healthy and environmentally aware.”
In the beauty arena, wellness has come to mean everything from aromatherapeutic candles to sleep enhancers to weight reduction aids to stress relievers to muscle relaxers to massage and bath products.
It even has become the stuff of designer fragrance. According to industry sources, the name of Calvin Klein’s new women’s fragrance, set to be introduced this fall, is Truth. The idea apparently is that truth enters through the senses and nourishes the soul.
The rapid rise of wellness has bewildered some people. But Myers knows her way around the category, having worked for two of the pioneers — Aveda and Origins, another subsidiary of Estee Lauder Cos. She joined Origins in 1989 as the marketing executive of the New Age brand.
Aveda and Origins have plenty of company, including The Body Shop, Bath & Body Works and Coty Inc., which launched its Healing Garden aromatherapy line in drugstores in 1997. The concept has touched virtually every level of retailing from the cutting-edge Fred Segal Essentials in Santa Monica, Calif., and the upper-tier Nordstrom to the Origins department store network to the mass market.
Myers quoted an impressive array of statistics that back up her observation that many people “have taken wellness into their own hands.” For instance, the practice of alternative medicine has increased by 47 percent since 1990, and 42 percent of U.S. adults now seek such treatments.
As for the mania for pampering — one of the springboards of the wellness trend — the number of day spas has jumped in the U.S. from less than 100 in 1992 to over 2,500 today.
Aveda is among those catering to the consumer craving for stress reduction with a new product, Blue Oil Balancing Concentrate.
One of the great retail pioneers in wellness during the past 20 years was the California-based Fred Segal. “The general public has embraced the idea that beauty is not just a topical thing,” said Robin Coe-Hutshing, co-owner of Segal.
“Men and women are embracing a total general sense of well-being.”
That has been her store’s focus since the beginning, she noted, but Coe-Hutshing now fears that it is being overused. “We are very careful [in applying the term], she said.
Teri Seigel, vice president of marketing for Healing Garden at Coty, quoted surveys showing that the one thing that stress-ridden consumers want is a good night’s sleep. Coty will introduce several Healing Garden extensions, called ZZZ Therapy, in the fall. Retailing for $6.25 to $13.95, there are four different stockkeeping units: Silk Pajama Body Lotion, Dreamy Powdered Milk Bath, Pillow and Room Spray and Sleep Kit.
The key ingredient in the product fragrance is camomile tea, prized for its calming properties.” Wellness has gone mainstream,” she noted.
Annette McEvoy, executive vice president at Bath & Body Works, added, “It is a trend in all channels.”
Bath & Body Works, perhaps the most impactful of the new breed of specialty chains, originally entered the aromatherapy field at the pleasure-giving end of the spectrum — single-note fruity bath products intended for pampering — but has since moved into deeper, more psychological waters. Last September, the company launched stress-relieving aromatherapy with differentiated product forms.
And the popular-priced Bath & Body Works intends to move on to more sophisticated approaches. “We are definitely looking at all sorts of ways of making it deeper,” McEvoy said.
In London, Nicky Kinnaird, founder and managing director of the British beauty retailer Space NK, said wellness is now the major trend in beauty and, indeed, in most other areas of personal care. “People are looking at every aspect of wellness in depth,” she said. “It’s in terms of products, in the ambience of their homes and in their physical and spiritual well-being.”
Space NK is catering to this demand with its own line of bath and body products that combine color and aromatherapy, which it launched late last year. The products have surpassed all sales projections, Kinnaird said.
In addition, the retailer’s new and largest store in Westbourne Grove in London offers treatments and massages designed to fit into the current well-being mood. “It’s a totally holistic approach, not just a facial,” Kinnaird said. “It’s also down to how we recruit and train the staff, because they’ve got to have the right spiritual attitude as well. There’s no point in having one person doing massages, facials and treatments and running around like mad. How balanced can they be then?”
While wellness is the latest beauty fad, Kinnaird doesn’t see it going away. Instead, it’s up to beauty companies and retailers to determine how it needs to be adapted both to their specific customers and even to specific countries.
“Companies need to look at different cultures to see how they feel toward this idea,” she said. “Italian women feel differently about beauty than French or British ones, for example. These differences may lessen as people travel more, but there will still be differences. Just look at how Americans prefer showers and the British prefer baths, or how the Japanese use baths for relaxation not for cleansing.
Another British company, Body Shop International plc, recently introduced its Ayurveda line.
Bernie Foster, managing director of The Body Shop in the U.K. and Ireland, said the line soft-launched in the U.K. in mid-March and has so far hit its sales targets. The line has also hit U.S. shores. “Now that we have begun our in-store marketing activity in full, we firmly believe it will exceed expectations,” said Foster. “We knew that the world was waiting for Ayurveda, and our customers’ responses prove we were right. It seems “well-being” has crossed the Atlantic and is here to stay.”

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